Andersen Starts to Form his Staff

With four assistants having been reported and link to Gary Andersen's staff, Wisconsin's new coach will make sure to keep Wisconsin defensive backs coach in his meeting room.

MADISON - Priding himself on recruiting in-state players first, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he was "highly interested" in retaining the current head coaches on the Badgers' staff.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Andersen said. "I'd be crazy not to be."

Retaining a lot of coaches will be a challenge for Andersen, who was officially introduced as the program's 29th head coach during a Friday afternoon press conference. Following the 99th Rose Bowl Jan.1, co-defensive coordinators Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge are heading to Arkansas, offensive line coach Matt Canada and tight ends coach Eddie Faulkner are heading to North Carolina State, receivers coach Zach Azzanni is heading to Tennessee and linebackers coach Andy Buh is heading to California.

While running back Thomas Hammock is going to stay, according to junior back James White, and offensive line coach Bart Miller is rumored to be staying, Andersen made it clear that defensive backs coach Ben Strickland will be retained.

"I want him here in the worst way, and it's important for me to have him on the staff," Andersen said. "Ben has shown me how important he is, and he is Wisconsin, if you will. I understand that because that's where I started my coaching career is where I grew up and where I played. There's something special to be a coach."

Previous reports suggest defensive coordinator and Broyles Award finalist Dave Aranda, offensive line coach T.J. Woods and safeties coach Bill Busch will follow Andersen to Wisconsin, which fall in line with Andersen's Friday comments that ‘three or four' assistants from Utah State will join him in Madison.

It also has been reported that Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a, who coached with Andersen at Utah State for two years, will also be coming to Madison.

"When I look for an assistant coach, the number one priority is to find a coach that can guarantee me that he's going to put the young men first because that's what matters," said Andersen. "Last time I looked, there's nobody coming out on Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening and watching nine coaches walk up and down the sidelines.

"This game is about players. It always will be. Players make plays. Players win games. Coaches need to support players. They need to hug them hard when they need to be hugged. They need to hold up their discipline plan if they need to hold up their discipline plan. The coaches need to be involved in the young men's lives."

One position that Andersen will certainly go outside his staff for is offensive coordinator, as Utah State's offensive coordinator, Matt Wells, was hired by the Aggies Thursday. Wanting to continue to run a physical run-first offense with multiple sets, formations and tight ends, Andersen believes Wisconsin is a tremendous opportunity for any offensive coordinator in the country.

"It's not a good job, it's a great job for an offensive coordinator, and offensive coordinators will understand that," said Andersen. "They'll line up a thousand deep if you want them to. The key is to find the right guy that can run this offense and build it the way that we want it to be built and carry over and use the best kids - use the kids the best way as far as their abilities. So that will be a little bit of a work in progress as we move forward."

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